The Anti-nuclear Movement in Münster

In the 1970s the nuclear power industry was planning to build as many as 200 nuclear power plants in the Federal Republic of Germany. There was talk of building a nuclear power station in Münster as well – on what is now the Rieselfelder Nature Reserve. The fact that many of the industry’s plans were halted is due, to a large extent, to the determined resistance of large parts of the population. 

Today there are still seventeen nuclear power plants in Germany. There is a uranium enrichment facility in Gronau, near Münster, which has been dramatically expanded in recent years, and in neighbouring Ahaus there is a storage facility for fuel rods, a hall-like building the nuclear power industry uses for the temporary storage of nuclear waste. Nuclear material is transported through Germany almost every day, usually unnoticed – and often through Münster as well.

The roots of the anti-nuclear movement in Münster can be traced back to the so-called Anti-Nuclear-Annihilation Movement (Anti-Atomtod-Bewegung) of the 1950s. The Student Working Group for a Germany Free of Nuclear Weapons (Studentischer Arbeitskreis für ein kernwaffenfreies Deutschland) was founded in Münster as part of this movement. Like other groups and organisations within the globally active peace movement, the Anti-Nuclear-Annihilation Movement ignored the dangers inherent in the ‘civil’ use of nuclear energy. The annual Easter peace rallies, which began in 1960, also initially limited their protests to nuclear weapons and military facilities. The ‘peaceful’ use of atomic energy was, on the whole, socially acceptable in the 1960s. Atomic reactors were seen as reliable tools for tackling the problem of limited energy resources.

The Anti-nuclear Movement as a Part of the New Social Movements

To cover projected energy requirements in the wake of the 1973 oil crisis, the political parties in Germany’s Lower House of Parliament opted for a rapid expansion in the use of nuclear energy.

To counter this, the first major protests of the quickly growing anti-nuclear movement were held. Their motto: ‘Better active today than radioactive tomorrow’.

Anti-nuclear Groups in Münster

The AKU (Arbeitskreis Umwelt; ‘Environmental Working Group’)


With the founding of the AKU in 1976/1977, Münster could boast a united organisation in which people committed themselves collectively and autonomously to campaigning for an immediate stop to ongoing construction of nuclear power plants and the shutdown of all active facilities.

Similar to the at least fourteen other anti-nuclear groups that have been founded in Münster since then, decisions within the AKU were taken according to the democratic grass-roots principle. The AKU organised trips to demonstrations in Grohnde, Brokdorf, and Kalkar, and it supported the Citizens’ Action Group on the Environment (Bürgerinitiative Umweltschutz) in Hamm, which was founded in 1975. This pressure group, which still exists today, opposed the construction and operation of the Thorium High Temperature Reactor in Hamm-Uentrop in Westphalia.  

The citizens’ group ‘No Nuclear Waste in Ahaus’ (Kein Atommüll in Ahaus), which has been active since October 1977, was also supported by anti-nuclear groups from Münster. Up to the present day, the anti-nuclear initiatives from the Münster region jointly oppose the fuel rod storage facility in Ahaus and the uranium enrichment facility in Gronau.

In 1980 the AKU founded the Münster Environment Centre (Umweltzentrum Münster), thus laying the groundwork for the development of today’s Environment Centre Archive, which has become one of the anti-nuclear movement’s largest archives.

The Hamm-Gruppe from Münster (Later Re-named WigA) as a ‘Post-Chernobyl Initiative’

Through the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, millions of people suddenly realised just how dangerous the ‘peaceful’ use of atomic energy truly is. In the same year, the catastrophe prompted the founding of a new Hamm-Gruppe in the Environment Centre Münster. In 1989 the group was re-named WigA (Widerstand gegen Atomanlagen, or ‘Resistance Against Nuclear Facilities’). WigA became the most active anti-nuclear group in the city. Their monthly publication anti atom aktuell (aaa, or ‘anti atom news’), a nationally distributed monthly newspaper for the immediate closure of nuclear facilities, and their Atomkraft Nein! (‘No Atomic Energy!’) calendar were produced, at times, by WigA members in the Environment Centre Münster.   

In December 1993 the group became a founder-member of the Münster Alliance Against the Transport of Nuclear Material (Münsteraner Bündnis gegen Atomtransporte). It organised the occupation of sites, campaign weekends, resistance camps, demonstrations, and so called Sunday walks in Ahaus.

The anti-nuclear movement’s 2003 spring conference was held in Münster, as had previously been the case in 1997. WigA remained active throughout the following years. One of the group’s most spectacular and successful initiatives took place on 11 December 2002: two WigA activists chained themselves to the railway tracks and were thus able to delay a nuclear consignment to La Hague and Sellafield by several hours.

In 2004 former WigA activists founded the Münster anti-nuclear groups Pollux and SOFA (Sofortiger Atomausstieg, or ‘Immediate Nuclear Stop’), which like WigA are still active today.

Bernd Drücke